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Helen Yee is the appetite behind Grab Your Fork, one of Sydney's longest running food blogs.
By
April Smallwood

2 Dec 2009 - 11:22 AM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

Helen Yee is the appetite behind Grab Your Fork, one of Sydney's longest running food blogs.

Your secret food shame...

Buttering my toast and then scooping a little bit more and eating it straight from the tub. Oops, did I say that out loud?

Ingredient you can't live without...
Chilli sauce. I'm not a chilli fiend but give me juicy roast duck, a platter of Chinese roast pork or a bowl of fried noodles or fried rice, and the first thing I reach for is the chilli sauce bottle. I love how chilli amplifies flavours and the endorphin rush can be pretty addictive too!  

Inspirational food in your area...
I've grown up and always lived in Sydney's inner west, a delicious mixing pot of different cultures. I love that there's such a diversity of restaurants - I can have Vietnamese for breakfast, Hungarian for lunch and a Brazilian meatfest at dinner. The grocery stores in the area are often a great source of ingredients. I will quite happily spend an afternoon browsing the aisles and marveling at packets of Indian spices, tubs of Lebanese yoghurt cheese, African chillies and different Korean kimchees. Forget the fancy gourmet stores in the city - I love going straight to the source where everything is so much cheaper!

Favourite restaurant in your area...

I often recommend Jasmin in Lakemba and I've never had anyone come back disappointed. It's a family-run restaurant that serves great Lebanese-style lamb and chicken but it's the vegetarian options that I love most. Plates of smoky baba ghanoush eggplant dip, a zingy tabbouleh salad and the crunchiest fluffiest falafel in Sydney. The garlic toum is sticky and satisfyingly pungent and the decor--stucco walls with hand-painted coastal scenes and domes in the ceiling--is all part of the charm. Service is fast but friendly and you will eat yourself into oblivion for $10-$15.
 
What can you learn about a person from the way they prepare their food?
I'm always fascinated by people's workflows. Some people are super organised and neat, whilst others seem to work in a constant state of chaos! I'm always interested in looking at how people use off-cuts or peelings. It's funny how many of our habits are passed on from our parents or grandparents.  

Recipe you most like to cook...

I'm known for my cupcakes and I do think they're an easy crowd-pleaser. There's something about little portions that everyone loves and it's amazing how a swirl of icing and a few sprinkles can turn a simple vanilla cupcake into a work of art.  
 

Inspirational chef...

I would say mum is the biggest inspiration. The ability to turn a fridge full of leftovers into a tasty dinner is an invaluable skill. Watching her cook for a family on a budget taught me to buy whatever is in season - and the glut means better flavour and cheaper prices.   

Favourite recipe


To impress..

Banoffee pie is the one of the easiest desserts you can make, especially as you can prepare much of it in advance. One you have a tin of condensed milk cooked down into dulce de leche, it's only a matter of preparing a tart base from crushed biscuits with melted butter, and then layered it with caramel, banana and a generous layer of whipped cream. It's perfect for dinner parties. Recipe: http://grabyourfork.blogspot.com/2005/06/shf-9-banana-caramel-macadamia-tart.html

Comfort food...

 I always find carbohydrates are my favourite comfort food friend. Tortilla espanola, or Spanish omelette, is one of my favourite weekend dishes to create. The slices of potato are cooked with onions until soft and sweet, and then set in an omelette pancake. I love this warmed slightly and eaten slowly. Recipe:  http://grabyourfork.blogspot.com/2005/06/imbb-16-tortilla-espanola.html

An easy weeknight dinner...

 I often cook pasta on weeknights as it's fast and simple. I always have a well-stocked larder for last-minute meals and at the moment I've obsessed with spaghetti tossed through with a tablespoon of pesto, plus olives, capers and lemon zest and fat dollops of fresh ricotta.

Favourite food event in Australia...

 I love the farmers markets in Sydney which are thankfully popping up in more and more places. There's a lovely sense of occasion and socialness associated with markets shopping. I think everyone thrives on the level of engagement involved, from  looking, smelling and touching the produce to talking to the growers and getting a sense of the people and passion behind the food we take for granted every day. They're a great way to learn more about food, and not just a happy combination of eating and shopping, but a great day out too.
 

Next featured foodie:

Billy Law from atablefortwo.com.au